OneJustice Blog

Bring life-changing legal help to Californians in need.

I used to live with so much fear

California is my home.

Finally my parents and I can live here without fear.

For the past 6 months, OneJustice has been so honored to serve as the host site for two amazing DreamSF Fellows, Jesus Castro and Talissa Carrasco.  Talissa and Jesus have become an integral part of the Rural Justice Initiative, conducting vital outreach to isolated communities and providing essential staffing for Justice Bus and Rural Justice clinics.  When the President recently announced the expansion of the “deferred action” immigration relief, we asked Talissa for her perspective on the new programs.

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From living in fear to planning for law school

Guest Blog post by Talissa Carrasco, a DreamSF Fellow at OneJustice

Hello, my name is Talissa Carrasco and I am a DreamSF Fellow at OneJustice. In 2013, I was granted DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), and since then my life has improved tremendously.

Talissa

Talissa, hard at work on rural outreach

Before DACA, I used to live with so much fear. Fear that my American friends wouldn’t accept me for being undocumented, fear that they would judge me as an “illegal alien,” fear that my teachers would treat me differently and place me in ESL classes, and fear that one day my family or I would be deported back to Peru. This fear drove to me to reject my roots as a child. For years, I struggled to find my identity, where I belonged, and whether I was Peruvian or American. Technically, I was Peruvian, but I only spent 2 years of my life in Peru and have spent the last 22 years in the US.

California is my home. It’s where I went to elementary school, it’s where I went to middle school and high school, it’s where I am attending college, and where I will be going to law school.

Since being granted DACA, I transferred to U.C. Davis, where I am now in my senior year completing my B.A. in Political Science, and upon graduation, I will apply for law school. I now have a driver’s license which helps with my commute to Davis, and I have a job doing what I love — serving underrepresented and low income communities that desperately need legal services.

Talissa on the Justice Bus!

I had the option of choosing between 13 different nonprofit organizations where I would be working to develop my professional skills. One of the first things that captivated me about OneJustice was the work they do. Having lived in many different urban cities, I’m thankful for always having had access to resources. Unfortunately that is not the case for everyone. I have an older sister who lives in Eureka who is also a DACA recipient and who is in need of legal aid to help renew her DACA. But, because the legal resources in Humboldt County are so scarce, I was unable to find her an attorney that she can afford or that is nearby.

With the recent news released by President Obama on Administrative Relief, I am grateful that my parents will finally be able to obtain legal status after living 22 years in this country undocumented, struggling to work and provide a better life for our family. Filling out DACA on my own was quite a challenge. Because of the challenge I faced, I know my parents will need legal assistance in applying for administrative relief.  There are millions of families – just like my parents – who will need legal assistance to determine if they qualify for administrative relief as well as to help them apply.

Since starting at OneJustice, I have been on 13 Justice Bus trips to serve rural counties that really need the legal assistance. This is why I chose to work at OneJustice, because the next community we serve may be one my sister lives in and that means a lot to me.

I chose this path so that I would be able to give back to my community, to give back to those who have helped me reach success. My goal is to serve as a role model for future generations of immigrant children and inspire ethnic students to succeed. My ambition gives me determination to fight for immigrants in this country, and DACA has paved that way for me. With DACA, I am no longer afraid to speak out about being undocumented.

Thank you for listening to my story, and for your support for OneJustice!

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My journey from gangs to legal aid

From concerned to joyful faces

Lessons from a DACA recipient on the power of legal services

For the past 6 months, we have been so honored to serve as the host site for two amazing DreamSF Fellows, Jesus Castro and Talissa Carrasco.  Jesus and Talissa have become an integral part of OneJustice’s Rural Justice Initiative, conducting vital outreach to isolated communities and an essential part of our mobile pro bono clinics.  When the President recently announced the expansion of the “deferred action” immigration relief, we asked Jesus for his personal perspective on what DACA has meant for him and how it intersects with his DreamSF Fellowship at OneJustice.

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My journey from gangs to working in civil legal aid

Guest Blog post by Jesus Castro, a DreamSF Fellow at OneJustice

My name is Jesus Castro. I am 19 years old, a DACA recipient and a current participant in the DreamSF Fellows program.

IMG_0102I came here from Mexico when I was five years old. My parents gave up their childhoods, left their families, and a chance at an education, so that my 3 brothers and I could have a better life. This better life includes me being an immigration attorney – that’s my end goal, that’s where I want to be.

I wasn’t always on the path of becoming an immigration attorney. Middle school and high school were tough for me due to my relationships with gangs. I was fortunate enough to realize that this gang life wouldn’t benefit me and that it would only get me incarcerated or worse – get me killed – especially since I was involved in a gang fight. And these guys who supported me, who said they were my family, left me standing alone.

Shortly after leaving the gang life, I began looking for ways to better myself.

I began my journey by joining the Coro Exploring Leadership Program. Coro gave me the initial professional skills that I needed to begin this new journey. As my time at Coro came to an end, I received the amazing opportunity to work for the City and County of San Francisco’s Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs or OCEIA for short. OCEIA is where the DreamSF Fellowship program was initiated and where I got the chance to be a part of the amazing cohort that we have today. The DreamSF Fellowship gave me – an immigrant and DACA recipient – the chance to intern at OneJustice in order to get my feet wet and truly find out what type of work I will be doing as an attorney some day.

Why I choose OneJustice as a host site. 

My time at OneJustice has really made it clear that I want to be an attorney, and that’s exactly what I was hoping for when I chose OneJustice as my host site. OneJustice also taught me that there’s much more legal assistance needed in the rural areas of California.

Jesus on the Justice Bus

Jesus on the Justice Bus!

OneJustice has also made me realize that working directly with a client plays a huge part in the work that I want to do. Being a part of the Justice Bus trips has given me a chance to hear others stories and help them – which is really rewarding.

Just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a consumer debt clinic and all I can say is – wow.  I was truly amazed by the type of problems our clients had. Not only that, but I was also very aware of all their concerned faces. I can say with confidence that the clients that we assisted left with their minds at ease. My proof you ask?  That would be how grateful our clients were for the assistance we had given them. I can also say that their concerned faces had turned into joyful faces.  It’s very rewarding to know that I have helped someone in order to make their lives a little easier.  Just as they are thankful for that assistance, I am very thankful for the DreamSF Fellows program and also OneJustice – because without them, I wouldn’t be able to make a difference in people’s lives.

Thank you for supporting OneJustice, so they can support others like me. 

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The longest hug ever

It’s simple.  We feel.  We’re human.  And we can.

A personal reflection on the power of pro bono

OneJustice’s very own Lauren Roberts and Renée Schomp recently handled on a pro bono case with Pangea Legal Services that resulted in an eleven-year-old boy winning asylum and a shot at finally just being a kid. We asked Renée and Lauren to share their reflections in this guest blog post.

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One young kid.  Two attorneys.  One life changed, forever.

Guest Blog Post by Lauren Roberts, Staff Attorney, & Renée Schomp, Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow

Lauren & Renee with client & Family

Renee Schomp, Ivan & his mother, and Lauren Roberts on the steps of City Hall after Ivan provided public comments before the Board of Supervisors

A young woman recently gave us the longest hugs we’ve ever received. Her 11 year-old son, whom we’ll call Ivan*, was our pro bono client.  He had just been granted asylum.   She was hugging us because we had just found out that Ivan would no longer have to fear being returned to El Salvador.  He was no longer facing a forced return to an uncertain future in a once-safe community now transformed by gang-enforced terror. Instead, he could—for the first time in his life—have a simple shot at just being a kid.  And so believe us, we were hugging back!

We both became lawyers because we wanted to use our skills to “do good.” And while we spend our careers at OneJustice striving to do just that, there are still certain cases and clients who stand out — cases that really hit us hard. Ivan’s case is one of them.

Ivan was just a young child, fleeing terrible violence in his community

This summer saw a dramatic increase in the number of unaccompanied minors and families crossing the U.S. border from Central America.  In 2014 alone, over 40,000 unaccompanied children have made the treacherous journey to seek safety and a more stable life in the U.S.  This “surge” triggered significant changes in the process through which unaccompanied minors (technically termed Unaccompanied Alien Children or “UAC”) are moved through the immigration system.  Special court dockets, commonly referred to as “rocket dockets” because of their expedited nature, were created to handle the surge. And immigration legal services organizations, already under-resourced, saw a sharp increase in demand for services.

Something about Ivan’s simple yet powerful words—his ability to tap into how he felt in an unvarnished way that so many adults cannot—struck us deeply

There is no right to counsel in immigration proceedings.  So an Attorney of the Day program, staffed by volunteers and immigration attorneys from local legal aid organizations, ensures that children and parents have some representation and screening for relief on the day of their hearing.  However, they are still left with the task of finding long-term representation.  This is where the great need for pro bono attorneys comes in.  With this backdrop, we decided it was time for us to step up and take on a pro bono case ourselves.

Ivan’s case was placed in the “rocket docket” for kids

Ivan

Ivan in City Hall after telling his story before the Board of Supervisors

In 2013, Ivan crossed the border unaccompanied and was thus deemed a UAC.  This allowed him to apply for asylum “affirmatively” through the Asylum Office rather than go to immigration court.  Also, although he is not technically part of the unaccompanied minor surge, due to his UAC status and because his case was filed amidst the “surge crisis,” his asylum application was placed in the so-called “rocket docket” — as we quickly learned!

We met Ivan for the first time in August and from the beginning, his story struck us to the core, even though he often spoke in one-word replies. Something about Ivan’s simple yet powerful words—his ability to tap into how he felt in an unvarnished way that so many adults cannot—struck us deeply. So did the incredible, visceral relief that poured over his face, tears in his eyes, when he received asylum.

In the pro bono programs we run at OneJustice, we always tell volunteers that they don’t need specialized expertise in order to take on pro bono work — they just need to be able to connect with other people in a genuine way. Representing Ivan reinforced that belief for us. Neither of us had ever done an asylum case before — so when we decided to, we reached out to our colleagues at the fantastic San Francisco-based organization Pangea Legal Services. Within a week, we were meeting with them to go over intake notes from their initial consultation with Ivan. And within two weeks, we were sitting down to meet with Ivan and his parents for the very first time.

We met frequently with Ivan and his parents over the course of the next two months to complete his asylum application form and later his declaration and supporting evidence for the case, including letters from his therapist, teacher, family members in El Salvador, and his father — and extensive State Department and other news and academic reports on El Salvador’s horrific country conditions.

It’s simple: We feel. We’re human. And we can.

As first-timers working on an asylum case, we were impressed not only by Pangea’s mentorship but also by the willingness on the part of the Bay Area immigration legal community to help us out with our case. For example, attorneys at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies revised our declaration at a moment’s notice — while attorneys over at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights walked us through our fear of calling USCIS for procedural calls about the case. All of this support from top-notch legal services nonprofits made it possible for us to take on an asylum case for a child under an expedited immigration processing system — and win.

Taking of Ivan’s case was a career turning point for both of us – his case expanded our expertise, but more importantly taught us a lot about what it means to be a an advocate and the power of being a pro bono attorney, using your legal skills to give back. In the moment that Ivan’s mother hugged us, we knew that anyone who could be there—witness her pure, exhausted, overwhelmed relief—would understand why we took on a pro bono asylum case for her child. It’s simple: We feel. We’re human. And we can.

And there are more kids like Ivan . . . they need us all to act!

The face of immigration policy is shifting as we write.  With recent immigration action by President Obama, millions of undocumented people could be eligible for deferred action.  And, the rocket docket continues.  There’s a continual need for pro bono attorneys to step up and help increase access to free legal help.   This need exists with respect to the many unaccompanied minors and families still being moved swiftly through the immigration courts, and at limited scope clinics to assist individuals with deferred action applications.

So we strongly encourage attorneys around the state to volunteer!  An amazing network of legal aid nonprofits offer pro bono opportunities ranging from a three-hour clinic to full representation of a kid like Ivan.  The benefits to the clients are breath-taking, and the personal satisfaction of being involved is tremendous.  And there are lots more kids like Ivan who need our help – so you, too, could be on the receiving end of the longest hug of your life!

For more information on how to get involved with OneJustice’s immigration clinics through the Justice Bus Project and Bay Area Rural Justice Collaborative, visit www.one-justice.org.

* Client’s name changed for confidentiality.

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Renee SchompLauren Roberts Renée Schomp is an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow and leads Justice Bus trips throughout Northern California, bringing teams of volunteers to serve rural communities.  Lauren Roberts manages the Bay Area Rural Justice Collaborative at OneJustice, engaging law firms and in-house counsel in a network of monthly mobile legal clinics.  Together, they bring life-changing legal assistance to hundreds of rural Californians facing pressing legal problems.

 

One Day. One Hundred Veterans.

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Did you know that there are over 125,000 veterans in California living in poverty – and too many face pressing legal problems?   In rural areas, some veterans live hundreds of miles from the closest legal aid nonprofit that can help – and for some, there is simply no help at all.  It breaks our hearts.

Tomorrow you will have a chance to change this – and bring help to rural veterans!

On December 2nd, we are striving to raise $25,000 in 24 hours to reach 100 rural veterans.

That’s right.  One day.  One hundred veterans.The Justice Bus reaches veterans in isolated communities.

You can bring help to veterans in need!  It takes just $250 to bring free legal help to a veteran at a rural legal clinic – right in their hometown.

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday – a special day for folks to give back to causes they believe in.  It’s like Black Friday or Cyber Monday – only better!  We are dedicating our Giving Tuesday to a cause that we believe in with all of our hearts – bringing life-changing legal help to rural veterans.

We hope you will join us by donating online tomorrow to this special one-day campaign.  For every $250 raised, we pledge to serve another veteran suffering needlessly from a solvable legal problem.

Your kind gift will bring teams of volunteers to set up free legal clinics for veterans in rural and isolated communities.

Please join the rest of the OneJustice network today by making a tax deductible donation tomorrow. Every gift, of any size, makes all the difference for veterans in need.

Thank you so much!

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A family you should meet…

Thanksgiving

Max* is 9 years old, and he struggles in school because of his disabilities. His teachers have a special education plan they are supposed to follow to give Max the support he needs to be successful…but sadly, they won’t. Max and his family live in a remote town in northern California, far away from the closest legal aid nonprofit that could help them.

Last March, Max and his parents came to a Justice Bus clinic on special education held in their small home town. They met with volunteers who reviewed Max’s plan, told them about his rights, and helped write a letter to the school demanding that the teachers follow Max’s plan. Now, Max is getting the educational services he needs to thrive.

With your generous support, this holiday season Max and his family have something to celebrate.

In this season of Thanksgiving, this family is grateful for YOU.

And so are we.  Thank you!

 *Name changed for confidentiality.

Pro bono for veterans – finding a measure of justice

To Serve Those Who Have Served

Lawyers Help Veterans Achieve Peace Of Mind

This Veteran’s Day, we are delighted to bring you a special guest blog post about a special Justice Bus trip.  This piece was first posted on Fenwick & West’s Pro Bono blog and is posted again here with their permission.

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By: Amir Hassanabadi, Associate, Fenwick & West, and Justice Bus Rider

Amir Hassanabadi Pro Bono for VeteransA veteran, by definition, is someone who served honorably on active duty in the armed forces of the United States.  Plans for what comes after a soldier falls find welcome pause in the ordinary demands of life.  But even an ordinary life must end someday.  It must be a shock, then, for some veterans who sacrificed, served and survived for their country, to find themselves too poor to plan for a dignified end.  Where is the justice in that?

The Justice Bus, carrying a squad of volunteer lawyers, wound itself through the foggy hills of San Francisco, past the Golden Gate Bridge and through the hills of the Northern Bay Area towards its final destination in Ukiah, Mendocino County.  Travelling through the town with fellow and former colleagues from Cisco and LinkedIn, we took note that the town was small but tight-knit – a homecoming parade marched through the streets with thunderous marching bands and Instagraming teens in tow.

Volunteers on the Justice Bus

Fenwick, Cisco, and LinkedIn volunteers ride the Justice Bus to rural Ukiah, California.

Disembarking the bus, we were greeted by a cozy Veterans Memorial Building, replete with American flags and welcoming faces.  The staff at OneJustice – a legal services organization dedicated to increasing access to justice in rural and isolated communities – had organized the event well: food and full canteens awaited us.  They trained us, coached us and thanked us.  The veterans who we were tasked with helping had already been screened and informed of the process.  It was orderly and disciplined – soldier-like.

Meeting the veterans provided a stark reminder of the challenges they continue to face long after their war draws to a close.  We met poor veterans.  Cancer survivors.  Those without family and those who had lost them.  Without many resources, these veterans were having a difficult time planning their wills and outlining their end-of-life care.  They worried that they would leave their loved ones with misery instead of security.  To put it simply, they did not have peace of mind.

In teams of two, the Justice Bus volunteers helped bring comfort to these veterans.  Attorneys walked veterans through form wills, personalizing and improvising as they went along.  Veterans had land to be partitioned and pets to be taken care of.  Similarly, attorneys helped veterans make the hard choices with regards to end-of-life care.

Fenwick Justice Bus Volunteer Marion Miller

Fenwick Justice Bus Volunteer Marion Miller

One would think this would be a somber process, but it was just the opposite.  One veteran recommended an amazing museum in the Presidio dedicated to conscientious objectors.  Another told us one of the dirtiest jokes I had heard in a while (not to be repeated here).  These were kind folks who were happy to be interacting with us and getting the help they deserved.

We served 24 veterans that day, but our impact was greater and went deeper than that.  By serving these veterans, we impacted the lives of their families.  We honored their service and their legacy.  And we made sure that the poorest in our communities can leave this world with security and dignity.  Hopefully we found a small measure of justice in that.

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The Fenwick & West Justice Bus volunteer team included Priscila Bastazin, Amir Hassanabadi, Greg Hopewell, Nam Kim,Goutham Kondapalli, Liza Kostinskaya, Helen Li, Marion Miller, and Robin Reasoner.

Amir Hassanabadi, a UC Berkeley (Boalt Hall) alum, is an associate in the Corporate practice group at Fenwick & West LLP.  He focuses his practice on a variety of corporate matters to support clients in the high technology and life sciences industries.  A champion of pro bono at the firm, Amir donates his time to Legal Services for Entrepreneurs, leading workshops on business law basics and providing limited-scope representation to low-income small business owners and entrepreneurs who serve underserved communities.  He also shares his expertise with pro bono clients such as Shabeh Jomeh (a Persian networking and charitable group) and Pacific Community Ventures (a nonprofit that creates economic opportunity in low-income communities).  Amir speaks Persian/Farsi and is an avid member of the Fenwick bocce ball team.  Follow Amir on Twitter (@amir__abadi) and on LinkedIn.

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Original Article posted on Fenwick & West LLP’s Pro Bono Blog on 10/23/14; reposted here with the permission of Fenwick & West and Amir Hassanabadi.

Chick and Poppy on Veterans Day. Whom will you honor?

Veterans Fund Banner

I give in honor of Chick and Poppy.  Whom will you honor on Tuesday?

Every Veteran’s Day, I give thanks for two very special men in my life:  Charles (Chick) Henson II and Walter Willard Travis (Poppy). 

You see, both of my grandfathers fought in World War II. 

I actually never met “Chick,” as he died from ALS long before I was born, but his passion for learning and fierce dedication to family have been passed on.  And I adored my “Poppy” with his deep love of nature, literature, and all of us grandkids.

I’m super proud of their service to our country – and the sacrifices that my grandmothers made to support them.

Every year on Veterans’s Day, I am proud to make a personal contribution, in their honor, to OneJustice’s Veterans Legal Aid Fund.  I love it that their names are on OneJustice’s Wall of Honor as a result.

And every time I hear about a veteran who receives free legal help because of the Justice Bus Project, it makes me think of Chick and Poppy.  I think they would be proud.

Let’s all take a moment  tomorrow to give thanks for all those who have served our country. 

And, I hope you’ll join me in honoring a veteran or service member who is special to you by making a contribution in their honor to the Veterans Legal Aid Fund.

With such gratitude for your support,

Donate Now - Thank You

Julia R. Wilson, Executive Director 

 

Virtual pro bono: from theory to reality

We’ve been talking about virtual pro bono for years

It’s time to move from theory to reality!

Jenna Finkle, Pro Bono Justice Program Associate at OneJustice

Jenna Finkle, Pro Bono Justice Program Associate at OneJustice

Last month over 125 people gathered at the two Regional Pro Bono Meetings to discuss hot topics in pro bono in California and plan for continuing to expand pro bono services throughout the state.  Thank you to everyone who participated in these great conversations in Los Angeles (October 2nd) and San Francisco (October 28th)!

Both of the meetings had sessions that continued our community’s discussion about how to more strategically use technology to connect Californians facing pressing legal problems with pro bono resources in the private sector.  Thank you to the Pro Bono Project’s Virtual Legal Services Program for appearing – virtually – at both meetings to share their successful model.  This model is highly replicable – and we’re excited about the opportunities that exist to move this topic forward in a big way over the coming year.

Today’s guest blogger, our very own Jenna Finkle, reflects both on her work coordinating the Regional Meetings and her participation in our own virtual pro bono clinic earlier this year.  Thanks Jenna!

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Guest Blogger: Jenna Finkle, Pro Bono Justice Program Associate

NorCal Pro Bono Regional Meeting

Over 80 participants attended the Northern California Pro Bono Meeting – we almost couldn’t fit them into one photo!

As OneJustice’s Pro Bono Justice Program Associate, I help coordinate and administer OneJustice’s support work and pro bono convenings throughout California. During the two regional Pro Bono Meetings in October, I had the opportunity to meet in person many of the pro bono stakeholders I have been communicating with via email, phone, and webinar from my office in San Francisco.

Both of these daylong conferences included a robust discussion about how to make pro bono virtual by connecting three essential ingredients through video and online chat: the clients, the volunteers, and the legal services experts to supervise.

Virtual Pro Bono Session

Cameron Day of the Pro Bono Project of Silicon Valley appeared virtually at the Southern California Pro Bono Meeting to demo their virtual pro bono services.

Watching these two groups dig into the idea of virtual pro bono during the sessions, I immediately thought about my experience working on OneJustice’s first virtual clinic in April, 2014. The Justice Bus Project brought 15 University of San Francisco School of  Law students to a DACA clinic in Humboldt in March, 2013. Due to limited resources in 2014, the Justice Bus Project was unable to return to Humboldt County to provide desperately needed immigration services. However, students from Humboldt State’s student group, F.R.E.E. (Find Resources and Empowerment through Education), reached out to OneJustice and prompted our partnership and coordination of our first ever virtual clinic to help immigrants in Humboldt County gain access to free DACA and immigration assistance.

The dedication of this student group astounded me. They were already a group seen in their community as an organizing node and resource. Their advocacy helped provide free legal services that were desperately needed. In preparation for this clinic, they coordinated DACA information sessions and found a space for the clinic, and F.R.E.E. members served as interpreters and doubled as technological navigators for clients during their appointments. They were ultimately able to successfully bring DACA & immigration assistance to 15 members of their community.

Ann, clinic volunteer at the April 2014 virtual clinic.

Volunteers in San Francisco connected virtually with immigrant youth in Humboldt County during the April 2014 virtual pro bono clinic.

These community members were served by seven University of San Francisco School of Law students working under the expert supervision of attorneys from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. These students came into USF’s library on a Saturday, despite schoolwork, jobs, and their many other obligations, to provide much-needed services to folks up in Humboldt. The enthusiasm OneJustice saw from our community partners, volunteers, and clients clearly demonstrated the importance of bringing desperately needed legal services to rural and isolated communities.

In my 10 months at OneJustice, I have seen amazing collaborations across geographic areas and services, from community organizers to law schools to pro bono legal service providers. The folks present at the SoCal and NorCal Regional Meetings are key players in the many statewide efforts to build connections and provide services to help low-income, under-served Californians navigate a complex legal system. I was inspired at the Regional Meetings to see stakeholders’ dedication to create innovative ways to use technology to increase access to free legal assistance in rural areas.

I am excited that there will be new virtual pro bono pilot projects in the next year, and I look forward to bringing stakeholders back together to share best practices development and new ideas at the 2015 Pro Bono Conference, to be held in the fall of 2015 in Los Angeles.

Mark your calendars now for the California Pro Bono Conference – Fall 2015 (more details to come soon).  Our big dream?  That next year’s conversation will include a TON of new virtual pro bono pilots developed over the next 12 months!

Double, double, toil and trouble

A Halloween of historical figures . . . and a bear

Which OneJustice staffer swept the 2014 costume contest?

Ok, so we didn’t actually have any witches at the OneJustice staff Halloween parties this year.  But we did have lots of creative costumes, including some historical figures, animals, fictional movie characters, a boxer, a burglar, static cling, and . . . a bear.

And for the winners of this year’s costume contest, we bring you (drum roll please  . . . )

  • First place in San Francisco: Amelia Earhart (aka Lauren Roberts, Staff Attorney for the Rural Justice Collaborative)
  • First place in Los Angeles: the unicorn (aka Kelsey Williams, IMPACT LA Project Fellow)
  • Second place: Yoko and John Lennon (aka Arbour Decker, Donor & Corporate Relations Manager and Ruby Kimberly, Justice Bus Program Associate)
  • Third place: Bear (otherwise known as Mike Winn, Senior Staff Attorney)

Check out the photo montage for more spooks (and laughs).  Wishing you the most spooktacular and fanta-boo-lous Halloween ever!

He didn’t want to miss the bus

Meet Joe Casey – Justice Bus Rider extraordinaire

He’s traveled over 800 miles to reach those in need.

Joe at a 2013 Justice Bus clinic.

We would never leave you off the bus, Joe!

No doubt about it – we think all of our Justice Bus Riders are pretty darn special.  All 1,312 of them!

They travel hundreds of miles to bring life-changing legal help to rural communities.  They give so generously of their time, energy, and skills to help poor Californians facing terrible legal problems.  They are the solution to the lack of legal assistance for hundreds of veterans, children, families, and seniors each year.

As a result, we have a special place in our hearts for these volunteers – we call them our “Justice Bus Riders.”  We think they are justice super heroes.

So we’ve decided that we will feature some extraordinary Justice Bus Riders here on the blog – so you can also get to know them.  We’re starting with a true Justice Bus hero – Joe Casey.    Joe, who will be starting this fall as a new associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, has been on SIX justice bus trips – all during his three years as a student at Stanford Law School.  He went on four trips with Stanford and two trips with law firms during his summers.  He has traveled over 800 miles on these trips to reach communities like Watsonville, Modesto, and Gilroy.

We sat down with Joe recently to ask him some questions about being a Justice Bus Rider extraordinaire.

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Joe, tell us about one of the clients you were able to help during your Justice Bus Trips?

Joe on the Justice Bus (on his way to assist rural seniors in 2012).

Helping a retiree prepare his will was a very satisfying experience. He was preparing for surgery and was visibly relieved to get his affairs in order. He was extremely appreciative for the assistance, and I was very thankful that OneJustice made the trip possible.

What’s the strangest or funniest thing you have witnessed on a Justice Bus Trip?

Sometimes, eager students can almost be a bit too earnest. For example, certain immigration forms require asking applicants questions like whether or not they have ever been “habitual drunkards.” I remember one client looking a student in the eye and asking whether or not having a few drinks a week makes him a “habitual drunkard.” Other questions on the immigration form relate to willingness to bear arms on behalf of the United States and affiliation with the Communist Party. I couldn’t find a single client who could answer these questions without breaking into laughter.

What motivates you to do pro bono work and why do you volunteer with the Justice Bus Project?
Mike Winn Hero Cartoon_2014

Our amateur rendering of Mike Winn as a rural justice super hero!

There is a serious justice gap in California. While Silicon Valley is very prosperous and has a glut of legal services, lawyers are hard to come by across large swaths of our state. The gross disparity in legal resources as seen through the lens of geography convinced me that the Justice Bus is an effective means of ensuring that people who don’t live near thriving economic and legal centers can also receive the legal aid they need.

What fictional social justice hero do you most admire and why?

I think my favorite fictional social justice hero has got to be OneJustice’s own Michael Winn. I just imagine Mike slipping off into the Canadian woods under the cloak of nightfall, notebook in hand after a hearty steak dinner, looking for injustices he can help to right. (Note: You have to have heard one of Mike’s inspiring speeches to the Justice Bus riders to fully understand that reference.) Seriously, you might consider creating a OneJustice comic book presenting (lightly fictionalized) accounts of real iniquities that the OneJustice team has helped to set right. And in the comics, the OneJustice team could have their own (magical, justice-seeking, flying) bus!

Thank you, Joe, for your years of participation in the Justice Bus Project – we look forward to many more years of working together to bring life-changing legal help to those in need!

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